|"Whoever does not
love does not know God, because God is
love." ~~ 1 John 4:8, NIV
Happy Valentine's Day!!! Per tradition, I've
written a story to mark the occasion. It's
mostly a series of loosely linked vignettes about some
of the Dyelanders and their relationships. I
hope you enjoy it. When next a story appears in
this newsletter, it'll find our friends confronting
some serious trials but some lighter fare (including
my response to that one movie that opened this
week...) will appear on the Author's
Cut prior to that. I'll keep you posted as
those stories are completed!
With the next newsletter in two weeks, I'll resume
Love and be loved today!
Mama's and Daddy's Girl
The Robe and the Ring A
the Lord Has
Wednesday, February 11th, 2015
Andrew looked away from his computer and glanced beside
him. JenniAnn's eyes were closed but her hand softly
patting Belle's back told him she was still awake.
Belle, however, had finally drifted to sleep after several
"You can go to sleep, you know. I'll keep watch," Andrew
offered in a whisper as he lightly stroked the weary woman's
JenniAnn opened her eyes and peeked over at Andrew. She
smiled at the photos on his laptop. After a few moments,
she rested her head on his shoulder.
"Thanks but I'm okay. Eyes just needed a rest. But
I want to help with the video. It's tradition!
Although... what a change from last year!" she mused aloud.
The angel of death smiled. "Whatever can you mean,
"Oh nothing big. Just, ya know, last year we were doing
this in my office, both dressed rather cutely if memory
serves, and briefly enjoying a bit of dancing. Now here
we are in your room... in pajamas... in bed... at 11 AM.
And... oh yes! We have a baby!"
Laughing, Andrew surveyed their mismatched pajamas and Belle
who was snuggled against her mother. He bent to softly
kiss the baby's forehead.
"And yet... disheveled and sleep deprived... I'm leaps and
bounds happier now than I was then," JenniAnn softly
Careful not to jostle Belle, Andrew embraced her mother.
"Me too. And Belle doesn't feel near as warm as she did
last night. Hopefully the cold's on its way out."
"Yep! I think the fever's broken. Poor, little
love... colds are nasty enough when you're a grown-up and to
deal with them as a baby!" JenniAnn cooed as she nuzzled the
child's curls. "At least it didn't hit on her birthday."
"Thank God for that!" Andrew clicked into a folder on
his desktop and turned the screen so JenniAnn would have a
better view as he shifted through images from Belle's first
birthday party. There she was face-down in her cake
having decided that was the most expedient way to enjoy
it. In another image, all the grandparents were squeezed
onto the couch with Belle beaming from Vincent's lap.
The next image revealed the tiny girl with a gift box over her
head after she'd found she enjoyed it more than the clothes it
contained. Then came several shots of Belle listening
intently as Owen read her the book Kemara had written and he
had illustrated about her very first days.
"Pretty tempting to just turn this Valentine's video into a
show about our little valentine," Andrew opined as he went
through more images of Belle.
"How little she was..." JenniAnn wistfully remarked
before beginning to giggle. "You gotta put that one in
"Really?" Andrew's cheeks flushed as he looked at the
photograph of himself, his face half-covered in shaving
cream. "I don't know that it's very... festive."
"Okay, well, maybe not. No... it is! It definitely
reminds me of love. Paternal love... and filial."
Appeased, Andrew dragged the image into a folder to be used
for the Valentine's show. As he did, he remembered when
JenniAnn had snapped it.
Thursday, January 22, 2015
Andrew knocked lightly on JenniAnn's bedroom door.
After opening the door silently, JenniAnn took the angel's
hand and pulled him towards Belle's nursery. They peered
Belle sat in her walker, shrieking with glee as she threw
Cheerios which Fawn and Lulu gobbled up.
"I stepped into my room just long enough to grab my cell phone
and, I swear, she waited until I was out of sight to start
that," JenniAnn explained in a hushed tone. "Like she
knows she's not really sposed to be doing that. But it's
just so cute..." She giggled as a handful of Cheerios
showered down on the two ecstatic dogs.
Andrew smiled but shook his head. "Laja, we can't just
let Belle get away with something cause it's cute." He
watched as the last of the cereal was gobbled up.
Fawn gave Belle a hearty lick, causing the girl to erupt in
giggles as she hugged the dog.
JenniAnn looked up at Andrew.
"Well... it is good to share. Actually, as much as Belle
loves her Cheerios... she's being very generous.
Selfless even," Andrew asserted.
Stretching up to kiss his cheek, JenniAnn laughed.
"Softie. Well, now that you're up and around, let's get
her out so she can practice walking. Unless you came in
here for a reason?" she checked.
"Well..." Andrew dragged his hand through his
hair. "Maybe it's goofy."
Belle wheeled to her parents, grinned, and stretched her arms
Andrew knelt beside her and kissed her. "Just a minute,
baby girl. Daddy has to ask Mama something."
Belle beamed at her mother. "Mama... Up, up."
JenniAnn burst out laughing.
"You trying to play us against each other, Belle?" she asked
as she sat beside Andrew.
The baby continued to grin.
Chuckling, Andrew shook his head. "Uh oh..."
"Uh oh!" Belle echoed.
"I hope there's not been a real 'uh oh,'" JenniAnn commented
as she took Andrew's hand. "What's going on?"
Andrew shook his head. "Nothing. I mean nothing
bad at all. It's just... well, I don't think I want to
go through another spring and summer with this beard. It
got a little uncomfortable last year in the heat and this is
going to be a pretty active few months coming up: helping add
onto Veritas, set-building at St. Genesius', expanding our
stable, and assorted carpentry orders. So I thought
maybe I'd shave it off this morning."
Her eyes twinkling, JenniAnn patted the troublesome facial
hair. "Your beard is lovely but so is your clean-shaven
face. I'll be happy either way. You know that."
Andrew kissed her hand. "I do but..."
"Dada!" Belle cried.
Andrew lifted her from her walker and looked to JenniAnn as he
cuddled their baby. "Belle's never seen me without my
beard and I saw this video online where a little girl had a
total meltdown because she didn't recognize her Daddy without
his beard. I don't want Belle to have a meltdown."
"Aww, love..." JenniAnn hugged him and took one of
Belle's flailing hands and kissed it.
Belle puckered up and planted her own kiss on her mother's
Andrew smiled as Belle turned into his chest and began to pat
his shoulder. "Well, Laja, she's definitely still the
little cuddlebug you... we... hoped she'd be. Aren't
Andrew sighed and held her close then looked over to
JenniAnn. "So... I was thinking maybe you could sit with
me and hold Belle while I shave. Then she can watch and
know it's still me."
"Aww, sure. Happily. You wanting to do that now?"
"Yeah, I think so."
"Okay." JenniAnn scooted a few feet away.
"Sweetheart, can you come to Mama?"
Andrew released Belle and watched with pride as she toddled
towards JenniAnn. Though her gait was wobbly, she didn't
"Good girl!" he cheered.
"Ooh!" Belle replied.
"Now let's walk together to Daddy's bathroom, okay?"
JenniAnn held out her hand to Belle.
Andrew took the girl's free hand and they slowly walked
towards his bathroom with Belle even managing the changing
"Such a big girl!" JenniAnn enthused as she lifted Belle
"Up, up!" Belle trilled.
After the little one had received a kiss from Andrew, JenniAnn
leaned against the counter so Belle would have an optimal view
of her Daddy.
The toddler seemed mystified by her father's actions as he
lathered his face.
JenniAnn laughed when she cocked her little head and her eye
brow flinched upwards.
Chuckling, Andrew finished with the shaving cream and reached
for his razor.
"Whatcha thinking, baby girl?" he asked after a few strokes.
"Still me. Still Daddy," the angel assured.
"Still Dada," Andrew repeated.
Belle continued to take it all in relative stride as Andrew
focused on the other side of his face.
He winced as he nicked his chin. "Ow."
"Ooh. Here, let me get a bit of Kleenex," JenniAnn
As she handed him a tissue, Andrew turned, allowing Belle to
catch a glimpse of the nicked side of his face.
Catching sight of the bit of blood, the baby let out a
While Andrew fumbled to cover the scratch, JenniAnn swayed
back and forth in an attempt to soothe Belle.
"Oh... oh... oh... It's okay. Daddy's okay!" she
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" Andrew lamented as Belle
continued to scream. "Bad idea... bad, bad idea."
"Sweetheart... Belle, honey, look at Daddy.
Daddy's fine!" JenniAnn assured to no avail as Belle buried
her face in her chest. Looking up, she noticed that
tears were welling in Andrew's eyes.
"Love, you try. Here." JenniAnn peeled Belle's
fingers from her shoulder then held the crying child out to
"Baby girl... Daddy's sorry. Daddy's okay," Andrew
Belle finally looked at him and began to calm.
With his face still half-covered in shaving cream and a bit of
tissue, Andrew cuddled Belle closer.
"Sweet Belle," he whispered.
After letting out a little shudder, Belle reached up for
"Dada... ow, ow."
Andrew kissed her forehead. "Just a little. It
doesn't even hurt now, baby."
"Dada..." Belle let out a little sigh then laid her head
against Andrew's shoulder.
Reaching into her pocket, JenniAnn removed her phone and
snapped a photo of the two clinging to each other. She
brushed at a tear as she continued to observe Daddy and
daughter as they comforted each other.
February 11th, 2015
you spent the rest of the day with half a beard..."
JenniAnn recalled, kissing Andrew's shoulder.
Andrew smiled sheepishly. "So much for avoiding a
"But you tried. I honestly didn't think Belle would
even really recognize what blood was nor that it sometimes
signifies pain. I mean Joshua held her when he cut
his head and she didn't react."
"It was mostly covered and her eye sight wasn't as clear
at that age as it is now."
"True. Well... looking back, it was pretty
sweet. She sure loves her Daddy. So do
I. And sometimes..."
Andrew shifted so he could more easily look into
JenniAnn's eyes. "Sometimes?"
"It still seems like a dream that we're here. After
all the years of missed hints and lost chances and
disappearing friends and barely talking and, well,
angst... we have this."
The angel stroked her face.
"Like think of the year you thought I was, well, breaking
up with you for lack of a better term. Or the
Valentine's I was with Eliot. Or a few when we
didn't even see each other! Or much of
anyone... Now we have so many friends that it's a
good thing we gave up that interview thing cause there'd
be too many people to talk to!"
"We would have had to start before Christmas," Andrew
"And who wants to spend Christmas planning for Valentine's
Day. Especially with such amazing Company at
Christmas..." JenniAnn sighed when Andrew opened a
folder of Christmas photographs.
Andrew and JenniAnn saw that Belle had awoken and was staring
at the screen.
Groggy, Belle slid off JenniAnn chest's and settled between
"You wanna look at pictures of Joshua, too?" JenniAnn guessed,
helping Belle to prop her head up with a couple pillows so she
could get a better look.
Andrew moved the laptop closer.
Belle gave a sleepy smile to the on-screen Joshua.
Her father hummed Maryam's lullaby and continued to cycle
through the collection of images until his little one had
nodded off again.
When Belle didn't react to JenniAnn smoothing some curls
behind her ears, she and Andrew resumed talking.
"That's the first smile in the past couple days," Andrew
remarked, his adoring gaze lingering on Belle. "She must
be feeling better."
"I think so. Now we'll just be in for a couple sleepy
days which is fine by me." JenniAnn yawned.
"It was good of Joshua to give you this week off."
Andrew nodded as he eyed a photograph of Joshua with Sy and
Ivy. "I think he would have just for the holiday,
knowing how much it means to us. But I'm especially
grateful I could be here with you and Belle while she wasn't
JenniAnn squeezed his hand. "Me too."
Returning the squeeze, Andrew smiled at her. "Now onto
They both smiled as they took in the first image: a feminine
hand sporting a gold and emerald ring.
The Robe and the Ring
That afternoon, in the backroom of Lily's Loot, Emma's dance
students practiced for their spring recital. Their faces
glowed with joy and excitement as Emma and Azalea proudly
looked on. After some final pirouettes and leaps, the
two observers applauded wildly as the performers took a bow.
"Well done! Well done, everyone!" Emma
congratulated. "Maisy, you did wonderfully with your
solo! And Lily... our little butterfly-girl!"
Lily pranced towards her teacher and gave her a hug then
slipped into her mother's arms.
"Now let's do a few cool down stretches then it sounds like
your family members are beginning to gather in the front room
to bring you all home," Emma informed.
After the stretches, the room cleared out and soon every
student was paired off with a parent, sibling, or friend who
took them home. While Lily busied herself twirling and
watching her skirt unfurl around her, the three adults helped
themselves to some coffee Basil had brewed.
"So how's Peter holding up?" Basil asked. "Big night for
Emma nodded. "Nervous, I think. But excited.
Bittersweet feeling, though."
"You've seen him in costume, haven't you?" Azalea checked.
"Oh yeah. A while ago."
"So was that..." The older woman bit her lip.
"Umm... weird? I just mean... well, it would be weird
for me to see Basil dressed as Joshua."
Basil grimaced. "You wouldn't be the only one feeling
Emma quickly swallowed her coffee and laughed.
"Actually, it's not as weird as I thought it might be. I
suspect that's one of the reasons Joshua was so encouraging of
our living together. I know it'll be different when
Peter starts acting like Joshua during the show but even
seeing him in full costume... he's still 100% Peter to
me. Peter who helps empty the dishwasher even when it's
not his night and eats cereal out of a mixing bowl and can
never quite remember to let his towels dry a bit before
throwing them in the hamper and making everything smell like
stale water." Though she wrinkled her nose, Emma's smile
Azalea playfully elbowed her husband. "Gee, that sounds
Basil held up his hands in surrender then smiled at Emma.
"Peter who proposed to me..." she finished, still smiling as
she brushed at a tear and gazed at her engagement ring.
"He's just so real to me that I don't think the illusion will
ever be full-blown for me... which maybe would be a problem if
not for the fact that I love Peter second only to... to
Joshua. So I can easily do lovelorn and heartbroken up
there onstage with him."
Azalea hugged her friend. "I know you can, Emma.
We both do."
Basil patted her arm. "You bet we do."
Emma's eyes filled again. "Sometimes I just can't
believe what a difference a year can make."
Before either Azalea or Basil could answer, the bells above
the front door chimed.
Lily ran towards the new arrival.
Peter scooped the girl up into his arms and tweaked her
butterfly wings. "You are an absolutely beautiful
butterfly, Miss Lily."
Lily beamed then wiggled. "My skirt twirls."
With a chuckle, Peter set her down and watched as she showed
"So it does!" He ruffled her hair then looked to Emma,
his face clouding when he saw her reddened eyes.
Emma hastened towards her fiance and embraced him.
"Something wrong?" Peter asked after a kiss to her forehead.
"No, no. Just getting a bit nostalgic." Emma led
him back towards the counter where Basil had another cup of
"Yes, please. So how are you both today?"
"Doing good!" Azalea chirped. "We had a fantastic dance
practice. Emma has put together a very sweet show."
"I know you had to be in the back, Emma, but I wish you could
have been out here, too. While we were waiting, everyone
was talking about how thrilled they are that you're doing
this," Basil relayed.
With a smile, Emma hugged Peter's arm.
"Guess Maryam knew what she was doing bringing me here."
"We're so glad she did and that Joshua brought Andrew,
JenniAnn, and Belle," Azalea added. "We can't imagine
these past months without all of you!"
"Impossible," Peter agreed. "Speaking of Andrew, he
called just before I left the theatre. Belle's on the
mend and Catherine and Vincent are taking her this evening so
Andrew and JenniAnn can join us tonight for, umm, the big
reveal. You'll be there?" he asked Azalea and Basil.
The couple nodded.
"I come, too!" Lily cried before either of her parents could
Peter laughed. "Glad to hear it, Lily!"
"We've already gone
over, several times, that you're just pretending to be Joshua," Basil assured.
"And she even replied with 'I pretend to be a butterfly' so we
know she understands." Azalea smiled at Lily.
Peter let out a sigh. "Good. I am a little worried
about the kids but I also know they're going to be around for
some of the rehearsals so might as well get them used to it."
"Definitely," Emma agreed. "The sooner, the
better. And speaking of that... we should probably head
out so we can get ready."
Peter nodded. "Right!"
The five exchanged hugs and then Emma and Peter made their way
back to their apartment to pick up their potluck dish for the
evening's Superstar rehearsal. Finding
themselves with a few spare minutes, they met on the
After settling beside Peter on the bench, Emma lightly brushed
her hand through his hair.
"It's not as thick as Joshua's," he opined.
Emma hugged his neck. "I love your hair. And no
one's expecting you to be Joshua, Peter. More than that,
no one wants you to be. Having a Joshua and a
Peter is very nice. I, for one, am incredibly glad and
grateful to have a Creator and Redeemer and Shepherd but... I
do look forward to having a husband, too. And having a
fiance is very nice in the meantime."
With a chuckle, Peter looped his arms around her. "I'm
glad you're glad. And it is very nice to have a
After they exchanged a few kisses, Emma rested her head on
Peter's shoulder and thought back to the night they had become
Wednesday, December 31st, 2014
After a beautiful and delicious dinner on the terrace of their
favorite restaurant, Emma and Peter had stopped at Willowveil
to check on the festivities there and say hello to many of
their friends. However, as it was their first New Year's
Eve as a couple, they wanted to ring in 2015 privately.
At 11:30, the two returned to their building.
Emma yawned as soon as they stepped over the threshold of
"So... are we staying gussied up or welcoming the New Year in
our pajamas?" Peter asked.
"Would you be disappointed if I voted pajamas?" Emma checked
with a weary smile. "I definitely want to stay up until
midnight, either way."
"Up until midnight in pajamas it is!" Peter agreed. "I
was rooting for PJs myself."
The two parted for a few minutes before reconvening in the
living room. They drew back the blinds and curtains in
order to view the fireworks then sat side by side on the
"Do you want to turn on the TV and watch any of the
countdowns?" Emma offered.
Peter considered for a moment then shook his head.
"Actually... do you think we could just talk? 2014 was
something else and I just want to savor it for a little while
Hugging him, Emma nodded.
"That sounds perfect."
At once, they looked at their photograph with Joshua that sat
in the center of the mantel.
Peter took Emma's right hand in both of his.
"Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night and just think
'Wow... We've hung out with Jesus'?"
"At least once a week. And then I usually grab his... my
hoodie and hug it. That's not weird is it?"
"No. Sometimes I get out of bed and just stare at the
robe for a while... and, yeah, sometimes I hug it, too."
"And all those times we've had to fight giggles because of
something or other that's said in church..."
Peter laughed. "Like that time Pastor Tony was trying to
make a point about how much work went into daily life in
Nazareth and actually said 'Now, what we have to understand is
that Jesus couldn't just go to the pantry and refrigerator and
pour Himself a big bowl of Froot Loops.'"
Emma shook her head as she laughed along with him. "Of
all the cereals he could have mentioned!"
With a sigh, Peter embraced her. "I'm so glad I have you
to share all those little inside jokes with, sweetheart.
And our friends, too. It would have been an incredible
blessing to meet Joshua under any circumstances... but hard,
too, if there'd been no one to share it with."
Emma nodded against Peter's shoulder and set her hand over his
heart. "I'm glad, too. And I think it's... I know
it's helped us grow so close. I mean... I think the
religious/spiritual things were going to be some of the
hardest aspects of my life to share with someone but for us...
we had to meet it all head on and discuss it early on and
so... so basically the entire time we've been together, it's
just been so... real. That first time we really talked,
it was with Joshua right there and you told us about the
racist neighbor lady and what your grandma said about your
skin tone and Jesus' and..."
Peter peered into Emma's eyes as she knelt beside him and
cupped his face in her hands.
"That chick was blind on top of being racist, by the way,"
Emma murmured. "To think you were anything but
"Emma..." Peter kissed the palms of each of her hands
then secured his arms around her when she sat back down.
Emma drew in a deep breath. "Anyway... it's just been
nice to never have been... surfacy. I mean not that we
haven't had our fair share of lighthearted, goofy
conversations. It just seems like from the moment we
were... us... and, well, as soon as I accepted that... that
you truly cared about me... we've been us for... for keeps."
"For keeps..." Peter echoed, caressing Emma's hair. Then
he startled and loosened his hold of her. "I'll be right
Thinking he needed a bathroom break, Emma laughed.
"Okay. But hurry! It's almost midnight and we have
"Have to?" Peter teased as he headed towards his room.
Emma rolled her eyes and smirked. "Well, I don't mean have
to. But I want to!"
"So do I. And I'll be not even a minute. Promise!"
Peter hurried towards his dresser. When Joshua had
visited at Christmas, he'd asked him about collecting Emma's
ring from the safety deposit box. With a glint in his
eye, Joshua had agreed that would be a very good idea.
Thus, Peter had re-hid it in the secret compartment.
After a quick peek at the ring, Peter closed the box and
slipped it into the pocket of his robe. As calmly as
possible, he returned to Emma.
"So how we doing on time?"
"11:58. Two more minutes of 2014!"
Peter reclaimed his spot on the couch and smiled as Emma
settled into his arms again. Then he noticed her close
her eyes and sensed she was sending Joshua one final message
for the year. Closing his own eyes, he silently did the
"I love You, Joshua. Help us to follow You closely in
this coming year, with love and compassion. Use us to
further Your story and Your work. And... I hope this is
the right time and it's You I'm hearing and not just my own
"Ten seconds!" Emma cried before casting her phone aside.
"Nine... eight... seven... six... five... four... three...
two... one!" they counted down together.
Peter buried his hands in Emma's hair as she planted a kiss on
"Happy New Year, Peter," she whispered in his ear before
throwing her arms around him and nuzzling his neck.
"Happy New Year to you, too, sweetheart." Peter returned
Emma's kiss and stroked her back. "I... I hope I can
make you as happy in 2015 as you made me in 2014." After
squeezing her hands, he pulled away.
"Peter..." Emma looked on in confusion as he rose from
the couch. She'd hoped to cuddle at least a little
Peter paced in front of the couch. He'd never entirely
settled on what he planned to say... or ask...
"Emma, I... I agree completely with what you said
before. About how... how we've never been
'surfacy.' A-and so... so it's always rung a bit hollow
with me when I introduce you as... as my girlfriend.
Because... well, in this day and age, sometimes that term
means very little. Boyfriend, too. So...
transitory. And this is... for keeps." Peter's
lips trembled as he paused and smiled at his beloved.
Emma gasped when Peter knelt in front of her.
"If... if it would be o-okay with you... I think I'd prefer
introducing you as... as my fiancee." Peter brought both
of Emma's hands to his lips.
Tears began to cascade down her face.
Peter removed the ring box, opened it, and held it out to
Emma. "Emma, my darling, my love, would you marry me?"
Emma was horrified when she opened her mouth and nothing came
out beyond a squeak.
Peter thought his heart was going to pound out of his
chest. He calmed when Emma began to frantically nod.
After slipping the ring onto her finger, Peter returned to the
couch and enclosed his fiancee in his arms.
Emma began to sob and found that it loosened the lump in her
"Yes... yes... definitely yes. Peter... I love
you... So, so, so much."
"I love you, too. A-and don't think this means that...
that we need to rush. Because I still... I mean
everything I said. We'll take as much time as you need
before we get married," Peter promised. "But I just..."
Emma kissed his forehead. "I understand. Now...
now everyone will know what we know a-and what Joshua
knows. We mean for this to last."
Emma sighed with great contentment. "There's just one
With a sly smile, Emma settled onto Peter's lap and looped her
arms around his neck. "When we tell this story... can we
please leave off that I was wearing a Care Bears t-shirt when
Peter circled his arms around her waist and let out a stream
of laughter. "Sure."
With another breezy sigh, Emma studied her ring. "So
"Joshua helped me pick it out."
"Aww! When he came at Christmas?"
Peter shook his head. "During your first visit with Dr.
"Oh... Darling Peter..." Emma snuggled into the
crook of his neck as she realized he'd bought the ring mere
weeks after they'd started dating. He had never doubted
their love for each other.
After a few moments of awed, companionable silence; Emma stood
and held her hand out to her fiance.
"A celebratory dance, my husband-to-be?"
"I would love that, my wife-to-be," Peter accepted with a bow.
Courtesy of her cell phone, Emma soon had "Moon River" playing
and the two danced slowly as fireworks lit up the city's
February 11th, 2015
Smiling after them,
JenniAnn lightly set her hand on Eric's forearm.
New Year's Eve ever..." Emma cooed as she came out of her
"It was," Peter agreed. "Now..." He gulped.
"Now we head to St. Genesius'!" Emma burst up from
the bench and held her hand out to Peter. "Everyone
will love you, darling. Well, they do already.
But I mean in the costume. You'll see."
Peter took his fiancee's hand then hugged her.
"Thank you. Your confidence in me means a lot,
"I know the feeling." Emma bowed her head,
remembering Peter's assurances that she could face her
past and triumph. She snuck a quick kiss then pulled
him back into the apartment.
Peter grabbed the garment bag hanging from his bedroom
door before holding his free hand out to Emma. Her
touch soothed his nerves as they left the apartment and
began their journey to the theatre.
It was a light rehearsal at St. Genesius' that
evening. Peter had decided that if he could win over
the children, he could win over anyone. Thus, a
number of the little ones were in attendance which
required skipping the more distressing numbers.
After their potluck dinner, Emma and Peter disappeared
backstage so the latter could get dressed.
Everyone else settled into the audience seating or milled
around onstage. JenniAnn took a seat near Eric who
was laughing as he watched Zane run through the aisles
with Jacob and Liam.
"Your Zane fits right in!" she commented.
With a proud smile, Eric nodded. "He really does.
And it's good to see him feeling so energetic. The
doctor thinks maybe he's through with surgeries. Neela
and I will have to watch what he eats for a while but... but
maybe things will start looking up for the little guy now."
"I pray so."
"How's your Belle? I overheard Andrew saying she was
under the weather."
"Just a cold but she's on the mend, thanks! No doubt
being spoiled rotten by her grandparents."
"That's great! No one feels good when the kid's not
feeling good." Eric stared down at his wedding ring,
recalling a November night spent in a hospital waiting room
with Neela clinging to his arm. He gave an embarrassed
smile when a tear leaked from his eye.
JenniAnn handed him a tissue. "You know what I was
thinking about while you were up there singing 'Hosanna' with
Eric chuckled. "My free fall?"
Laughing, JenniAnn shook her head. "Actually, no.
I was thinking about that time we... visited in the office."
"No, no. I just mean... Belle spit-up and I thought you
were going to pass out. But earlier I was talking to
Neela and she told me about some of what the two of you have
gone through with Zane. I thought there was someone
decent behind that fake-baked, dyed facade. Now I know I
Eric glanced over at his wife who was all smiles as she talked
with Kylie, Diana, and Cira. Then he smirked and turned
back to JenniAnn. "You forgot gym monkey.
Fake-baked, hair-dyed gym monkey. But thanks."
"You're very welcome."
Andrew approached, taking a seat to the other side of
JenniAnn. "I hope Peter's not getting himself too worked
Eric nodded. "I hope not, too. Even in the small
amount of time I've been around him and Emma, I've been able
to tell he'll do great. And the way he talks about
Eric sniffled as he remembered the carpenter. The day
he'd first returned to St. Genesius', Emma and Peter had given
him a DVD of the previous year's performance. He and
Neela had viewed it together that night after Zane had gone to
bed. They'd both sobbed as they watched the man they'd
known as a friend and neighbor, the man who had brought them
together be betrayed, scourged, humiliated, and
crucified. And then joy... Jesus had come back from the
grave! Joshua... their friend, their neighbor... smiling
That night, Eric had dreamed he'd been onstage with
Joshua. Peter had been there. Emma, Zeke, Diana,
Kylie, Shane, Edward, Caleb... Each one of them had been
costumed but not him. He had stood, gazing up at the
crucifix, wearing worn jeans and a stained T-shirt.
Joshua had stared down at him, tenderness in his eyes.
"For you, Eric. I did this for you."
Eric had awoken sobbing and related the vision
to Neela. The next day, they'd both returned to the
theatre and confronted Emma and Peter, wanting to know why
they couldn't get Joshua out of their minds. To their
surprise, Peter had called Andrew. To the couple's even
greater surprise, Andrew had appeared... just like that... in
the center of the theatre's office. He and Neela had
listened, clasping hands, as the three took turns telling them
the truth about Joshua, about God.
"Peter will do great," Eric repeated as he
returned from his reverie.
Andrew clapped the man on the back. "I agree. He
will do great and hopeful..."
Emma stepped onto the stage.
"So, umm, Peter's ready."
"And so are we!" Zeke heartily replied, leading the others to
They all went silent and gaped when Peter stepped onto the
stage wearing Joshua's robe and sandals and Doug's cloak.
"Is... is that good stunned or... or bad stunned?" Peter
Zeke stumbled towards his friend and threw his arms around
"The Lord's proudly smiling down on you for sure, Peter.
I... I know it," he assured.
Fr. Mike was next to embrace Peter.
"You're truly in His image, my friend."
With tears in his eyes, Peter returned the priest's hug.
"Joshua... he feels so close," Peter whispered.
"He is close," Emma replied. "Right here." She
rested her hand over Peter's heart.
Nodding and crying freely, Peter embraced her. He
laughed when their friends crowded around them in a massive
group hug. When they drew apart, Peter made his way to
Lily, Jacob, Liam, Zane, Persephone, Galen, and Shelby and
knelt in front of them.
"So what do you think, kids? You think it'll be okay for
me to pretend to be Joshua in our show?"
Emma observed with teary eyes as the children nodded.
Liam studied him, remembering what his Monny and Daddy had
said about Uncle Peter needing to dress like Joshua to tell
people about Joshua.
"It's good," he decided with smile.
Peter gently squeezed his hand. "Thank you, Liam."
"I think Joshua will be very happy," Jacob answered.
"I hope so, Jacob."
Persephone took Peter's hand. "He will be. Cause
it's important to tell about him and now you can."
Smiling through her tears, Shelby hugged Peter. "You
look very Joshuan."
The other children nodded again.
Nearby, Gloria beamed.
"Thank you, all of you," Peter replied with a relieved sigh.
For the adults standing nearby, the heartfelt illusion
deepened as "Jesus" gathered the children to him.
After everyone had dispersed from the theatre; Andrew,
JenniAnn, Arthur, Monica, and Liam joined the Tunnel dwellers
on their walk home. Arthur and Monica watched Liam
closely as he strode beside Jacob. Monica eyes' misted
and Arthur wrapped an arm around her waist.
"He looks so grown up with his book bag...." she whispered.
"He really does, doesn't he? But happy." Arthur
smiled when the two boys began giggling at some private joke.
"Arthur, maybe it's too soon," Monica fretted. "Liam...
he's not been away from us since... since he came and..."
"Owen's agreed to come get us or bring Liam to us if he gets
upset. You know that," Arthur reminded. "Monica,
Liam's been so excited all day. We have to let him
try. And I think it'll be good for him. In only a
few short months, he's going to start school here and what
better way to begin to feel comfortable at a school than
having a sleepover in it with the principal's kid? So to
speak. Not to mention the principal is also Liam's
Monica managed a smile. "True..."
"Besides... we haven't really had much alone time."
Arthur clasped the angel's hand. "I think it'll be kinda
With a slight flush to her cheeks, Monica nodded.
Though she and Andrew had deliberately lagged a few feet
behind to give Arthur and Monica some privacy, JenniAnn
guessed at what was on the caseworker's mind. She
hurried ahead and closed the distance.
"Ya know, if you two would feel better about it, you could
always stay at Willowveil tonight and be nearer to the
portal," she invited. "Although I really think Liam's
going to do just fine."
Monica glanced hopefully at Arthur but she could tell he was
not enthused by the offer.
Seeing Arthur's face fall, JenniAnn tried to right things.
"Actually, even sposing Liam did get homesick... and, again, I
really think he'll enjoy the sleepover... I'm betting he'd
calm as soon as he was at Willowveil. So Andrew and I
could just call you and you could come get him there.
Might be nice to enjoy a quiet evening at the cottage before
it gets all torn up when ya add on."
"That's true," Arthur agreed. "But, Monica, if you
Monica shook her head. "No. No, it's okay.
Thank you, JenniAnn. We'll stay at Veritas."
JenniAnn beamed. "Good!"
Andrew chuckled when she rejoined him.
"I think I almost sabotaged Arthur's plans for 'date night,'"
"But they're back on track?"
"Uh huh. So... what are you thinking about for tonight?"
"Sleeping for as long as Belle allows."
JenniAnn laughed. "And I support that plan fully.
I hope she did okay..."
"Let's go see."
Andrew took JenniAnn's hand and the two hastened to
Catherine's and Vincent's chamber. After a polite knock,
Catherine greeted them with a smile and a finger at her
lips. Following her into the chamber, the two found
Vincent settled into his favorite chair with a book and
Belle. The baby had been changed into her jammies and
was dozing peacefully.
Vincent smiled at his goddaughter and Andrew.
"Belle drifted off right after dinner and has remained
so. I thought, perhaps, you could leave her for this
evening? She is so content and..."
"And so are you?" JenniAnn interrupted with a knowing smile.
"I am," Vincent averred. "And it may settle Liam some to
know his cousin is also here in the Tunnels."
Andrew laughed. "Vincent, Catherine, if you want to
babysit Belle overnight then that's reason enough for
me. Sure. Right?"
JenniAnn nodded when she looked to him. "Right!"
"I think it would be a good idea for your sakes', too.
You both look like you could use some quality sleep. We
don't want you getting rundown and also catching cold,"
Catherine pointed out, briefly resting her hand on JenniAnn's
"I feel fine," she assured. "But yeah... tired. We
were just talking about that."
With a laugh, Catherine patted his back. "Then it's
settled. Now where..."
Jacob, Liam, Monica, Arthur, and Owen entered the chamber.
"There are my boys!" Catherine greeted, hugging Liam and
Jacob. "Boys, Belle's going to stay here in our chamber
tonight so why don't you tell her and Papa/Grandpa Vincent
good night and then let's get you settled in."
Mindful of Belle, Jacob leaned up to kiss his father's
cheek. "G'night, Papa."
"Good night, my boy."
"G'night, Belle." Jacob smiled at the baby.
Liam hugged Vincent's free arm. "Night, night,
Grandpa." He set a soft kiss on Belle's forehead.
"Night, night, Belle."
Vincent squeezed the boy's hand. "Good night,
Liam. I'll see you both at breakfast and then you'll be
coming to class with us, Liam?"
Beaming, Liam nodded. "Yes, Grandpa."
Leaving Andrew and JenniAnn to say their good nights, the rest
of the group headed to the children's chamber.
When they stepped inside, several of the kids gathered around
to cheer Liam's arrival.
Monica smiled and set her head on Arthur's shoulder.
"So many friends..." the man mused. "He'll do just
Jacob showed Liam to an empty cot near his. "For you!"
Plopping onto the bed, Liam spread out and smiled. "Very
"Good! Now, Liam, you remember how close by my chamber
is, right?" Owen checked.
The little boy nodded.
"So if you decide you want to go home, it'll only take me not
even a minute to get here and head that way with you.
"Okay. But I think I'll be fine, Uncle Owen. It'll
be fun." Liam smiled then looked to his parents.
"Monny, Daddy..." He slid off the cot and hugged them
both. "Night, night. You're coming for breakfast?"
"You bet," Arthur promised after kissing the boy.
Liam frowned. "Monny... why are you crying?"
Monica hurriedly swiped at her tears and knelt down.
"I'm fine, Liam. Just... so proud of... of my big boy."
Liam hugged her tightly. "I'll see you in the morning,
Monny. They have coffee."
Monica laughed. "Yes, they do. And we will see
each other then. Good night, sweet boy."
"Night, night, Monny."
The angel closed her eyes as Liam kissed her damp cheek.
When Monica opened her eyes, she discovered that Jacob and
Liam were staring at her and seemed unsure of what to do.
Liam leaned in and kissed her other cheek.
"I love you, Monny."
Letting out a little sigh, Monica smiled and held him
"I love you, too, Liam. Have fun and... and we'll see
you in the morning."
Arthur helped the angel to her feet and led her a few steps
"Sleep well, Liam. Love you!"
"Love you, Daddy!"
With an appreciative smile for Owen, Mary, and Portia; Arthur
steered Monica towards the corridor where they met up with
Andrew and JenniAnn. The latter hugged Monica as soon as
she saw her.
"The first time is the hardest," JenniAnn soothed.
"It gets easier," Andrew promised, gently patting Monica's
Letting out a ragged breath, Monica attempted a smile.
"Thank you." She turned back to Arthur and hugged his
arm. "Let's go home."
Embracing her and kissing her hair, Arthur escorted Monica to
It was half past eleven and Arthur still couldn't sleep.
His mind was full of memories from the evening.
Blessedly, Monica's melancholy had let up soon after their
arrival at Veritas. She had been thrilled with the
tiramisu he'd picked up for them to enjoy along with his own
hand-crafted lattes. Then they'd watched one of her
favorite movies, a little Irish romantic comedy called The
Closer You Get, while curled up together on the
Yosef's counsel all those months before had been far truer
than Arthur had realized at the time. The ancient
carpenter had told him of how much the briefest and gentlest
of caresses had come to mean for Maryam and him. They
were not a means to an end or a "base" on the way to a "home
run." Arthur chuckled as he recalled the saint using the
same tired baseball analogy everyone did... although with a
decidedly different message. And he understood.
Knowing he and Monica would never and could never have sex,
Arthur had greater appreciation for every brush of her lips
against his cheek and for the way her hair tickled his chin
when she snuggled near and the light touch of her hand over
his heart. He felt more when his arms encircled her and
he nuzzled her hair than he ever had in bed with a
woman. It wasn't that the desire wasn't there but it was
far less powerful than the joy and peace he felt.
Subdued by the blissful memories, Arthur was just about to
drift off when he heard the noise.
Not wasting a moment with robe or slippers, Arthur hurried
down the steps from the loft and jogged to her room. He
rapped on her door.
"Monica? Monica, I heard you crying. I'm coming
Stepping into the room, Arthur found the angel hugging her
"Monica..." Arthur reached for her hand after he'd
settled into a nearby chair.
"I... I... thought I heard movement in... in the hall.
Liam... after a nightmare... coming to stay with me.
B-but then I remembered... he... he's not here and then I got
to thinking about one day he... he won't be here at all
cause... cause he'll move out and... and... maybe get
married. A-and have a wife and..."
Arthur did his best to stifle a chuckle.
"Monica, Liam is five. I don't think you need to think
about his wife for a long, long time."
Monica stared at Arthur then began to laugh through her tears.
"I... I'm a mess."
"You're a mom. And, I mean, if you think about it, it
makes sense that this is harder for you," Arthur
reasoned. "Don't get me wrong. I miss Liam.
But I just keep thinking about how much fun I had staying at
my best buds' houses when I was younger. You don't have
"But I'm feeling like there's more to this. Is there?"
Arthur carefully prodded.
Monica's face flushed.
"Did you have a nightmare?"
Surprised that he'd guessed, Monica gazed into Arthur's eyes
"Do you want to talk about it?"
Monica fixated on a nearby photograph of Joshua for a few
Arthur bit his lip when she scooted over on the bed.
There was a line they had never crossed... He remained
where he was but leaned forward to brush a few tendrils behind
"I dreamed he came back... Not... not Joshua.
"A-and he... he tried to take me away from... from you a-and
Liam. Then... then someone grabbed Liam a-and I got away
and was going to... to save him but then I was just...
frozen. And I... I didn't know where you were and..."
Arthur rubbed at his eyes.
"And I know Joshua and the Father would be there! He was
before... Calling my name... Joshua. B-but
still... it was... was very bad for... for a while."
Pushing back his concerns, Arthur settled beside Monica and
pulled her against his chest.
"Milady..." he cooed as she wept into his shirt.
"It's very common for parents to have nightmares about their
children. I do. That someone shows up and says
someone else made a custody claim... That someone
snatches Liam at a store... Everyone has them. I'm
sure Andrew and JenniAnn could tell us both stories. And
I know my mom used to have recurring ones of me darting into
the street in front of our house. It's just... you went
through something most parents never, never do. It's no
wonder that leaks into your nightmares. But you're
right, Monica. Joshua and his Father would be there no
matter what. And they would help us no matter what."
"They'd be holding us all... even if/when we couldn't hold
each... each other."
Arthur sighed as Monica nuzzled his shoulder. He felt
Monica peered into Arthur's eyes, silently making her
plea. Stay with me...
Arthur knew he couldn't deny her. However inadvertently,
he had made her vulnerable to such nightmares. Now it
was up to him to help guard Monica against the residual chill
and worry. He slid beneath the sheet and quilt then
rested on his side, facing her.
Monica shifted nearer and rested her hand over Arthur's
heart. She was startled by how swiftly it was racing.
"What sort of dog were you thinking of for Liam?" she
The question was so random and unexpected that Arthur
"I guess i hadn't really given it much thought. I
figured we'd just take him to the pound and let him pick but,
then again, that could be traumatic."
"He'd just think about all the dogs that were left," Monica
"Exactly. Maybe a bigger sort of terrier mix?
Fawn's size? Maybe a little smaller? Something we
could carry if we needed to but big enough to play with and
not worry too much about accidentally hurting him or her like
you might with a tiny, delicate dog."
"He'll be so happy..."
"We'll go together to pick him or her out?" Arthur invited.
Monica stroked his face and nodded.
"Yes, please. Arthur?"
"Thank you. For... staying." Monica took one of
his hands in both of hers and stared at them. "I know
this... it's difficult for you in... in ways I can't fully
know and I... thank you a-and love you so much."
Arthur leaned in to plant a kiss on her forehead.
"I love you, too, Monica. And this... I could get used
to this." Arthur grinned.
Caught off-guard but pleased, Monica giggled.
"Now to try to get some sleep?" Arthur suggested when her
laughter ended in a yawn.
"Yes, I think so."
Monica flicked off the bedside lamp then returned to Arthur's
embrace where she drifted off to a contented sleep. He
followed soon after.
Thursday, February 12nd
JenniAnn remained huddled beneath the covers. With Belle
in the Tunnels, it was one of the rare mornings when she
didn't have to get up. Andrew, too, could sleep in and
that fact was apparently not lost on him. He remained
asleep, looking peaceful and very comfortable.
JenniAnn allowed herself to gaze at the angel of death for a
few moments. Sometimes his very presence still amazed
her... as did the frequency with which he ended up in her room
at night. On the nights when he'd have to leave or
return at an ungodly hour for an assignment, Andrew kept to
his own room. He also seemed to have an uncanny knack
for knowing when she craved time alone. But, otherwise,
he was there.
"Do I have something on my face?"
JenniAnn giggled when Andrew opened his eyes.
"No, just the same lovely features as always.
G'morning. Sorry that I was staring."
"Good morning, Laja. And it's okay. Sometimes I
watch you or Belle sleep. Kinda creepy... but I think
it's okay so long as we're both creepy," Andrew teased.
"I think so," JenniAnn agreed as she snuggled against him.
"So... were you thinking anything in particular during your
one-sided staring contest?"
"Just about you... being here... in my room... a lot. I
mean it's a good thing! Just... surprising, I guess."
Andrew traced the floral pattern of the sheets.
"I guess it's just that... well, I sleep more than I used
to. I mean it wasn't a big deal, sleeping alone, when
I'd maybe only sleep 4 or 5 nights a month. But now it's
at least that many times a week and... that's a lot of alone
time. I'm still not used to that so... it's nicer to not
JenniAnn contemplated his words. She remembered what it
was like when the lot of them were living at Cora's with
Joshua then later there in the castle. Even when he
wasn't in the room, Joshua's essence seemed to hang in the air
like a thick, wonderful fog. She supposed Andrew had
"grown up" feeling that constant company. Of course he
still felt God's presence in the mortal worlds. But not
in the same almost palpable way. JenniAnn felt something
like it when Andrew was near. Even when they weren't
touching, she could sense and almost feel his presence there
beside her. She felt better, lighter, more comfortable
when he was there. He must feel something like it and
maybe, in some way, it helped ameliorate his chosen separation
from Home and that bliss-inducing fog.
"It is," she murmured in agreement.
Andrew kissed her forehead.
"Are you hungry yet?" he asked.
"Yeah, getting there."
"I thought I'd make crepes. What do you think?"
JenniAnn smiled up at him. "I won't turn that
down. I'll see if Violeta's up and tell her."
"And I'll check on Max and Sean, see if they're
interested. Maybe call Kemara?"
They embraced once more then Andrew returned to his room to
dress. After doing the same, JenniAnn made her way to
Violeta's room. She was not surprised to find it
empty. After grabbing a coat from the hall closet,
JenniAnn ventured out to the stable. There on the
ground, with Silly's head in her lap and Mary plopped beside
her, Violeta dozed.
Yonah greeted JenniAnn with a soft bray.
JenniAnn nuzzled and cooed at her donkey as she slipped him a
After rousing, Violeta smiled sleepily up at JenniAnn who,
after returning her smile, sat down beside her.
"How long have you been out here, hon?"
JenniAnn smiled when Violeta's head lolled onto her
"Is something wrong?"
"Not wrong. I was just thinking a lot."
"Well, Andrew's starting crepes for breakfast but I'm sure he
won't have them ready for a while. Do you want to talk
about it?" JenniAnn checked.
"I'm beginning to rethink what I told Andrew... about Silly,"
"Ah..." JenniAnn studied the sleeping, year-old sheep
JenniAnn leaned against Yonah, occasionally glancing over at
Adam. The two had found themselves audience to a rare
heated discussion between Andrew and his protege.
"Violeta, sweetheart, we all told you, Joshua included, that
these lambs were going to be your responsibility," Andrew
reminded. "And responsibility isn't always fun."
"But you're talking about cutting into my baby!" Violeta
Andrew dragged his hand through his hair.
"Violeta, both Lulu and Fawn have been fixed. Ivy's
Leo's been fixed. 'Cutting into' really isn't the way to
think about it. Randall knows what he's doing.
He's done it for..."
"Mrs. Maguire went into a routine surgery with a really good
doctor last Thursday and we still took her Home!" Violeta
countered. "Things happen! And I don't want Silly
to go Home! I mean I know he'd be happy there b-but Mary
would miss him a-and I would miss him and..."
Andrew glanced over at JenniAnn but her face was buried in the
scruff of Yonah's neck.
"Fine," he decided. "But that means you'll have to
separate Silly and Mary. At least during breeding
"No!" Violeta threw an arm around each lamb. "They
love each other! I can't separate them!"
"How would you like it if I told you that... that you... you
couldn't sleep with JenniAnn for three months?"
Andrew's face burned red.
The young angel's own cheeks tinged pink and she looked to
JenniAnn opened her mouth to respond but, before she could,
there was a loud snort.
Andrew, JenniAnn, and Violeta all turned towards Adam whose
back was to them. His shoulders shook with laughter.
Andrew folded his arms over his chest.
"Gee, thanks, buddy."
Still laughing, Adam turned around.
"Listen, I'm sorry. But that..." He broke down
JenniAnn began to laugh at the sound of the angel of death's
giggles... and giggles they were.
"All right..." she began.
"I'm sorry," Violeta murmured for a second time.
JenniAnn approached and gently patted her hair.
"It's okay. It's not your fault a euphemism has
complicated things. But, honey, it's not really the same
thing. Unlike with Andrew and me, Silly could get Mary
pregnant. And I'll be the first to admit that having a
little lamb or two would be adorable."
Calming, Andrew stroked Silly's wool and crouched in front of
"They would be adorable. But how would we take care of
them, Violeta? Sure, we could handle another one or two
but then we'd face the same questions next year." Andrew
reached out to take her hand. "Sweetheart, I don't mean
to upset you but I just don't see any way around this."
Violeta bit her lip, tears filling her eyes as she stroked
Recovered from his laughing spell, Adam drew nearer.
"If Silly and Mary prove prolific, I could help," he offered.
The other three all looked to him.
"Adam, I appreciate that. I really do," Andrew
replied. "But you have your work and..."
Adam nodded. "I do. But that work's changed a
little. Per Joshua. He told me so during the cast
party back in April but, at first, I wasn't sure what exactly
he meant. I'll still be keeping my AOD gig but Joshua
and the Father have also given me a new job as a sort of...
therapist to other angels, I guess you'd say."
Andrew got to his feet and hugged his friend.
"Adam, that's great!"
JenniAnn beamed at Adam.
"I'm so happy for you!" she cheered.
Still worried, Violeta managed a wan smile.
Clapping Andrew on the back, Adam smiled at them.
"Thanks. It's recreational therapy mostly. I mean
at least it starts that way. I've been teaching my
charges to knit and, as they knit, they start to talk.
Joshua is pleased." Adam's cheeks flushed with
pride. "So I may be getting more angels added to my
caseload. Knitting... it requires yarn. Which
requires wool... If Violeta agrees, I could have my team
help with tending the flock, sheering, treating,
dying... Maybe Vincent's people would even help.
We'd give them a cut of the profits, of course. And/or
"Profits?" JenniAnn asked.
Adam nodded. "I figure we'd start hitting farmers
markets or something. Sell our wares. It would be
nice to have a little industry going, don't you think? I
mean... Andrew, you have a daughter. Monica has a
son. While I have every confidence that the two of you
and Arthur and you, too, JenniAnn can provide for them...
Dyeland is my second home, too. Children grow up.
We're going to have a building boom in a few years. It'd
be nice to be able to pitch in for the kids."
"It would!" Violeta readily agreed.
Andrew smiled. While he didn't doubt her sincere desire
to help her niece and nephew, he also knew this plan would
neatly resolve her dilemma.
JenniAnn stood and hugged Adam.
Returning her embrace, the elder angel of death studied his
Andrew dragged his hand through his hair.
"You're sure you want to do this, Adam?" he questioned.
"Yes. I'd actually been thinking about it even before
today's, uh, excitement."
Andrew moved towards Adam and circled his arms around both him
After another moment, Violeta rose and joined the group hug.
"So now everyone's happy, right?" Adam checked.
"Right," Andrew, Violeta, and JenniAnn replied in unison.
The four looked to Mary and Silly who were staring at them.
"Do you think they understand?" Violeta asked.
Chuckling, Andrew shook his head. "I think they just
want treats. But, yeah, maybe they understand that
something good is afoot."
Grinning, Violeta gave apple slices to the two and to Yonah.
JenniAnn glanced over at Andrew whose eyes were misting as
Violeta began to sing.
"'Tender shepherd, tender shepherd, let me help you count your
Adam patted Andrew on the back.
"You're doing well with her," he encouraged then smiled at
JenniAnn. "Both of you."
Andrew squeezed Adam's and JenniAnn's hands. "Thanks...
but I'm glad it'll be several years before Belle's a
Violeta was oblivious to their soft laughter as she cuddled
with her babies.
Thursday, February 12nd
"I... I just mean...
what if... if Mary did get pregnant
a-and the labor was really hard on
her a-and she died?"
JenniAnn hugged the angel's
"Violeta, there's always going to be
a risk. With humans,
too. Yet women become pregnant
all the time... yearning for it
even. If you've changed your
mind then that's fine but, hon, you
shouldn't make decisions based on a
fear that the worst case scenario
might happen. Do you remember
when I told you that Joshua and I
went on a picnic in the Fields while
he was here in the spring?"
Violeta smiled and nodded.
"Well, he confronted me about Andrew
and how I was kinda keeping him at a
distance. And I admitted to
Joshua that I was afraid of drawing
Andrew too close when I know I'm
going to die and he'll linger on...
no longer having the life he became
accustomed to here."
The teenager shivered.
"Joshua wasn't having it," JenniAnn
continued. "Because he sees
how foolish it is to make our
current lives less vibrant and full
because some unfortunate thing might
happen in the future. What if
I hadn't taken that risk with
Violeta sighed. "I wouldn't
like that... and he definitely
wouldn't. I'm glad we're at
Willowveil now. I mean I'm
excited to move to Serendipity with
Ivy. But Andrew needs to live
with Belle. And you. And
I'm glad I've been here for Belle's
JenniAnn kissed her hair. "Me
The two spotted Andrew standing in
the doorway to the stable.
"Everything okay with my girls?" he
asked as he approached.
Violeta nodded. "I was just
worried about Mary maybe lambing
some day and if something happened
"But now I'm not so worried."
Andrew squeezed her hand and peered
over her head to smile at
"I am hungry, though..."
Andrew laughed. "Max is
minding the crepes. They
should be done soon. And Sean
called Kemara so she's headed over."
"Oh good!" JenniAnn replied.
"I hadn't had a chance to call her
"So you two ready to head inside?"
Andrew queried as he got to his
feet. When the two nodded, he
offered them his hands and they
headed to the castle.
"What would you have done if Adam
hadn't come up with his plan?
Would you have made me get Silly
JenniAnn glanced over at Andrew,
curious about his response.
Andrew hugged his trainee.
"No, sweetheart. I wouldn't
have forced you. They're your
lambs, not mine. But you would
have had to deal with the
consequences. If that meant
spending all your free time tending
sheep instead of having some time to
watch movies or talk with Ivy... so
JenniAnn smiled with approval.
Violeta rested her cheek against his
"I'm glad for Belle," she
murmured. "She has a good
"I agree," JenniAnn assented with a
lump in her throat.
Andrew circled an arm around each of
"Thank you. Both of you.
I'm very happy to be her Daddy."
The angel of death sighed with
contentment as his soul mate and his
protege each rested their heads on
Peering out the parlor window, Sean
watched Andrew, JenniAnn, and
Violeta approach the castle.
Kemara came up behind her fiance and
"Spying?" she asked.
"Guilty as charged. I was just
thinking..." He shook his
head. Maybe it was too goofy
"I just hope, if we are blessed with
children, that when they're
teenagers they'll still think we're
as cool as Violeta seems to think
Andrew and JenniAnn are."
Kemara smiled out at the merry trio.
"That would be nice. Although
God help us if they have as much
energy as Violeta does."
Sean laughed. "We'll teach
them to dance. That'll burn
off some energy."
"Point taken. I guess we'll
just be tired then."
Laughing along with Sean, Kemara
hugged him a second time and
imagined her betrothed as a dad.
the Honeymoon is
Since there was
rehearsal for Superstar later
that night, Kemara and Sean met
Diana and Zeke at St. Genesius' for
their pre-Cana counseling.
After catching up on how they'd each
spent the day, the two couples
settled down to the business at
"So what questions do you have for
us tonight?" Zeke prompted in
between bites of the cookies that
Kemara had brought along.
"Well... let's see. I know
there was something we meant to ask
you both." Sean bit his lip as
he tried to remember.
"The honeymoon," Kemara
reminded. "I mean..."
Her face flushed. "Not the
honeymoon itself. But how do
you know when the honeymoon stage is
over? What was that for the
two of you?"
"If you don't mind sharing," Sean
added. "We just mean when the
responsibilities and... realness of
it all set in."
Diana and Zeke exchanged a knowing
look. They didn't even need to
"Well, for us, it was very, very
obvious," Diana answered.
"And it happened on a day that
started out very honeymoonish," Zeke
remembered with a twinkle in his
Thursday, March 28th,
Diana sat up with a start when the
phone rang. A call at 6:17 in
the morning couldn't be good.
Zeke's eyes burst open a second
later. Nearer to the phone, he
scrambled for it.
Diana wrapped her arms around him as
she waited for word. She let
out the breath she'd been holding
when her husband smiled.
"Wow. Well, sure. I'll
tell her. Thanks, Desmond."
Once Zeke had returned the phone to
its cradle, he beamed at his wife.
"No school. Some sort of power
outage around there. You have
the day off."
"And so do you..."
Zeke settled onto his side and began
to play with the lace at the top of
"So how do you think we should spend
the day?" he asked.
Diana leaned up to kiss him and wrap
her arms around his neck.
"Not gonna argue with..."
Zeke sunk against his wife as her
lips met his. Just as he
pushed a silken strap off her
shoulder, Diana jolted.
"Diana, baby, what's wro..."
Holding her gut, Diana hurried out
of bed and ran into the
bathroom. Trailing her, Zeke
fell to his knees beside his bride
and held back her braids as she
When it was over, Diana slumped into
"I'm sorry... It just came on
all... all of..."
Before Zeke could console her, Diana
lurched forward and vomited again.
His forehead resting against her
back, Zeke began to pray silently.
"Please, Lord, let this pain pass
for my girl... our girl. And
please... don't let this be too
Zeke's eyes welled as he thought of
his father, lost to a burst appendix
the year before.
When Diana had stilled again, Zeke
ran some cool water onto a wash
cloth and wiped her face.
"Can you tell me how you feel?
You... you don't think it's your
appendix, do you?"
Diana squeezed his hand, knowing
where his thoughts had gone.
"No, honey. It... it hurts all
over. Not just my side.
I've never felt quite like this,
"Maybe just a passing virus?" Zeke
hoped aloud. "All kinds of
things going around that school, I'm
sure. Good thing you're home
"Not going to be the day off we
Zeke kissed her hair.
"It's okay, baby. You just
focus on taking care of you."
Diana nodded against his chest when
he scooped her up and carried her to
"Can I get you anything?"
"Maybe crackers and ginger ale if we
"I'll go look."
After setting a waste basket beside
the bed, Zeke made his way to the
kitchen. He found a box of
Saltines in the cupboard but frowned
when he opened the container.
Six lone crackers. A search of
the refrigerator didn't turn up any
ginger ale, either.
Disappointed, Zeke returned to the
bedroom and set the crackers on the
"That seems to be all we have.
And no ginger ale. Do you
think you'll be okay if I run to the
"Zeke, you don't have to.
Maybe if I just rest."
"It's hard to rest on an unsettled
Diana considered this. Already
she could feel her insides beginning
to churn. She nodded.
Zeke gently hugged her.
"I'll be back just as soon as I
can. Straight there and
back. But you call 911 if you
feel any worse. Right away."
With a wan smile, Diana kissed his
"I will. I promise."
"I love you, my girl."
"I love you, Zeke. So good to
Zeke tucked the covers around his
wife and kissed her forehead.
"You're everything I could ask for
in a wife, darling girl."
After forcing a smile for her sake,
Zeke quietly left the room.
"Please, Lord, please let her be
okay," he prayed again before
leaving the house.
At the nearest store, Zeke hastened
towards the soda aisle and set three
different brands of ginger ale in
his cart. In the snacks aisle,
he selected a variety of crackers
and then added rice and
oatmeal. On a whim, he grabbed
a bouquet of fresh flowers, hoping
to bring Diana a little joy.
He headed to the checkout stands
then veered towards the pharmacy,
thinking maybe he could find
something there to ease Diana's
And then he saw them: pregnancy
And he began to wonder.
Glancing over at the counter, Zeke
saw that the pharmacist was
alone. He smiled shyly as he
approached the woman.
"Good morning!" she greeted.
"How can I help you, sir?"
Zeke glanced at her name tag.
"Good morning, Hailey. I,
uh... I'm Zeke. And I, umm, I
was just wondering if maybe you
Hailey patted his hand.
"Go on, Zeke. No judgment
Zeke smiled shyly.
"Thank you. See, well, my
wife... she's home.
Vomiting. I was wondering...
we've, uh, we've been married six
Hailey's eyes lit up.
"Do you know about when a woman
might find herself with morning
sickness?" Zeke asked in a rush.
"Well, each woman is
different. Each pregnancy
even. Some don't even ever get
sick. But... six weeks is the
norm. Maybe you brought
yourselves home a really special
souvenir from the honeymoon."
"Do you need a pregnancy test?"
"Your wife probably doesn't have a
preferred brand yet, does she?"
Hailey slipped out from behind the
counter, escorted Zeke back to the
display, and selected a box.
"They've got history on their side,
predicted all three of my babies and
that was nearly two decades
ago. They're even better now."
Zeke took the package from her and
stared at it.
Hailey eyed the contents of his cart
and smiled at his obvious devotion.
"I'll be praying you get the answer
you want. For what it's worth,
I think you'll be a good father when
the time comes."
"Thank you... thank you, ma'am."
"You're very welcome."
Zeke smiled once more at his helper
then wheeled as quickly as possible
towards the checkout lines.
Thankfully, there was no
waiting. He was in a daze as
he handed over his credit card and
Zeke raced into the house before he
even unloaded the car.
"Diana, I'm back!" he called as he
dashed towards their room. He
tilted his head and smiled tenderly
when he saw her, still in bed, her
cheek on his pillow as she faced
him. Her hair was pulled back
and she'd changed clothes. He
hoped that meant she was feeling
Diana held up her hand when Zeke
"I... I was thinking that maybe you
should stay away. If it is
"Then it's probably too late for
me," Zeke reasoned. "Besides,
I want to take care of you. I
just wanted to check in on you but
I'll go unload the car now.
Still feel up to some ginger ale and
After kissing his wife's hair, Zeke
hauled his loot inside. He
wondered when he should bring up the
test. Later, he
supposed. Let Diana get a
little more food in her.
Diana smiled when Zeke returned with
a can of ginger ale and sleeve of
crackers in one hand and a bouquet
in the other.
"I figured you needed a little
beauty and brightness."
Diana caressed the assorted flowers.
"They are beautiful. Thank
"You're welcome. I'll get a
vase in a little bit." Zeke
opened the soda can. "Here."
Diana smiled after taking a sip.
Tearing open the crackers, Zeke held
them out to her.
After nibbling a couple, Diana sunk
against the pillows. She
tilted her head as she studied her
"What?" Zeke questioned.
"Something... I don't
know. Something in your
eyes. You're... hiding
something." Diana frowned.
Zeke drew in and let out a deep
breath. He should have known
better than to think he could hide
his nervousness from her. He
nodded and settled beside Diana.
"Diana, I... I got to thinking while
I was at the store and then... then
I talked to the pharmacist
lady. Hailey was her
name. Baby, it's been six
weeks since... since our wedding
night." Zeke smiled dreamily
as he remembered. "And... and
Hailey said six weeks in pretty
common for... for morning sickness
to set in if..."
Diana blinked and set her hand over
"If..." she echoed.
"I bought a test... if you would
want to take it."
Tears welling in her eyes, Diana
Zeke hugged her then went to the
kitchen where he'd left the little
box sitting on the table.
When he returned, Diana took the
test from her husband. She
squeezed his hand and slipped into
Sitting on the edge of the bed, Zeke
bowed his head and prayed. He
hoped for the sign. A little
one to love and cherish would be an
incredible blessing... but the sign
would also assure him that his girl
was well... better than well.
He raised his head when he heard
running water and knew Diana was
washing her hands.
"It said about five minutes," she
informed him in a hushed voice.
When Diana was resettled in the bed,
Zeke took both her hands in his.
"Could... could you pray aloud?" she
Zeke nodded. Knowing he wasn't
going to be coherent otherwise, he'd
been repeating the Lord's
Prayer. He recited the ancient
"'Our Father, who art in Heaven...'"
Diana kept her eyes on the
clock. It had been 7:01 when
she'd entered the bathroom.
At 7:06, after he'd finished his
current recitation, Diana squeezed
her husband's hands.
"It's been five minutes."
"Do you want me to check?" Zeke
offered. "Or do you want to
or... or we both?"
Diana's legs felt wobbly, whether
from nerves or the sickness she
Zeke turned towards the bathroom
door then halted. He spun back
around and kissed his wife.
Smiling, Diana embraced him then
watched him enter the
bathroom. She strained to hear
any sign. Her heart began to
pound when Zeke stepped back out...
a massive grin on his face.
"I... I..." Diana stuttered.
"Pregnant," he verified.
Zeke swooped down and encircled her
in his arms.
"Baby... we're going to have a
baby!" he cried.
Smiling herself, Diana wept and
clung to her husband.
"Hailey... she... she said maybe
we'd brought home a special souvenir
from our honeymoon. I guess we
did!" Zeke exulted.
"The best kind of souvenir," Diana
agreed. Secure in the
knowledge that there was no way her
beloved was going to catch what she
had, she kissed his cheek. "I
"And I love you. So
much! Thank You, Lord!" Zeke
shouted, peering up at the ceiling.
Diana beamed at the ceiling then
snuggled against Zeke.
Zeke's hand hovered over her belly.
"Can I? But I don't want to
Diana lifted her shirt then placed
her husband's hand against her
"Say hello to Daddy," she whispered.
His eyes filled with tears of joy,
Zeke let out a blissful sigh.
Diana stared at his hand on her
belly and thanked God as she
marveled at the miracle growing
inside her, a miracle she and Zeke
and God had created together.
Thursday, February 12th,
"Not as exotic as having Joshua tell
you that you're pregnant," Diana
concluded. "But still
Sean gaped at the two.
"That... that would change things,"
he choked out. "In a big way."
Diana and Zeke beamed at each other.
"It did. But in the best
way. Our little
Hailey..." Diana brushed at a
tear as she remembered the tiny
baby... the same baby who would soon
head to college.
"You named her after the
pharmacist?" Kemara questioned.
Zeke laughed and nodded.
"Trust me, she deserved the
honor. We were nervous newbie
expectant parents and in and out of
that pharmacy with all sorts of
questions on a near weekly basis."
"I had an obstetrician of course,"
Diana assured. "But Hailey was
just so much more personable than he
"Only married six weeks and pregnant
already..." Sean marveled.
Kemara bowed her head, remembering a
vision she'd had when the two had
babysat Manny: a beaming Joshua
holding two small bundles out to
Diana shrugged. "I know it's
sooner than a lot of people seem to
want but it made sense to me.
If you're going to spend the bulk of
your married life as parents, why
not get to know your husband or wife
as a parent if the Lord wills
it? So we did."
"For example, I wouldn't have gotten
to know Diana's favorite brand of
ginger ale... Canada Dry... and
crackers... Club... as soon as I did
without our Hailey's speedy arrival
on the scene," Zeke jested.
"So that was how we knew the
honeymoon was over!" Diana
"But it really wasn't a bad thing at
all. We still found time for
just the two of us even after Hailey
was born. It got harder,
sure. But we managed."
Kemara smiled at Zeke. "I'm
sure Sy and Kendra and Manny are
happy about that."
Chuckling, Zeke nodded.
"And even with Manny, we still
manage thanks to the older kids and
our incredible friends who help with
babysitting." Diana's eyes
twinkled as she smiled at Kemara and
With a grin, Sean nodded.
"He's fun to babysit... once you get
the hang of it. And having
moved to Willowveil, I see what you
mean about friends even more
now. When Andrew and JenniAnn
wanted to go dancing a couple weeks
ago, I thought Max and Violeta were
going to start fighting over who got
to babysit Belle."
"Couldn't they both?" Diana asked.
"Which was Andrew's and JenniAnn's
solution. But they still
bickered over who got to feed her."
Shaking her head and laughing,
Kemara took her fiance's hand.
"Well, I think we might have a
while... if it even happens for
us." She stared down at her
hands. "You two were much
younger than us when you conceived
Sean's tender gaze studied his
bride-to-be. He wasn't sure a
wait before a baby was a bad
thing. Then again, Joshua had
said their next Christmas may not be
as they were picturing... but
beautiful. And that could mean
Diana rested her hand over the
"True. But you never know,"
Zeke reassured. "You know
you'll be in our prayers. You
Calmed, Kemara sucked in a deep
breath and smiled.
"Thank you. So... are you
excited for your first Valentine's
in Dyeland? Andrew and
JenniAnn can get pretty
With a laugh, Zeke nodded.
"So I've heard... and seen.
Adam showed us a video of them in
red and pink glittery costumes."
Sean cringed. "Really?"
"You never know but since they do
have a little one now... they might
be a bit more subdued," Kemara
"I bet they focus more on Belle's
ensemble," Sean kidded.
"I can't wait to see her in her
little dress for the wedding!"
"I can't wait to see you in yours."
Diana and Zeke looked at each other
as the younger couple exchanged shy
Whether their wedding night brought
a "souvenir" or not, the Wilsons
were sure it would be a happy one.
the Lord Has
February 13th, 2015
Since the early rehearsals had gone
so well, Emma and Peter had canceled
practices for Friday and Saturday so
they and their friends could enjoy
the holiday. Thus, Valentine's
Eve found Arthur and Monica
stargazing and sipping lattes beside
the fire pit outside Veritas.
Catherine and Vincent had retired
early to their chamber, their door
tellingly closed. Jacob and
Owen indulged in their mutual love
of painting, both bringing Joshua
forth from their canvases. A
few corridors away, Brittony and
Eliot rocked their twins. With
Edison in his mother's arms and
Eleanor in her father's, Galen sat
on a stool in front of them and
invented a story to amuse his
siblings. Sequestered in his
chamber, the Tunnel patriarch read
his Bible, happily lost in thoughts
of his Lady and her Son. As it
was also their anniversary eve,
Diana and Zeke splurged on a fancy,
candlelit dinner at a fine
restaurant and spent most of the
evening on the dance floor.
Back at the Wilsons' residence, Ivy
and Sy babysat Manny who obediently
fell asleep not long after 7:00,
leaving the young couple to enjoy a
chilled bottle of sparkling cider,
decadent cupcakes, cozy
conversation, and dances of their
own. At Serendipity, Violeta,
Hailey, and Kendra shrieked with
glee when Emma and Peter delivered
Jocelyn and Zoe to their doorstep
for a sleepover. Afterwards,
the couple returned to Manhattan
where they shared dinner with Azalea
and Basil on the terrace of their
favorite restaurant. Following
a lovely meal with Aunt Josephine,
Max and Rose took to L.A. to enjoy a
moonlit stroll along the balmy
beach. Hand in hand, Kemara
and Sean walked along the beach in
Dyeland, just outside the home they
would soon share. In Albany,
Edward and Caleb prepared dinner for
their Aunt Dot and Uncle
Randall. At their apartment,
Cira and Crystal giggled and wept as
they watched a succession of
romantic comedies. They were
wistful for romances of their own
and yet grateful to have an evening
in which to celebrate their
friendship. No such
bittersweetness touched the hearts
of Tim, Tyson, or Jeff who made
toasts to each over root beer and
cream soda at True Light as they
celebrated receiving a sizable grant
to support their boxed cradle
endeavor. Aware that they were
the only ones in their group without
company that evening, Fr. Mike and
Shane took a lead from Samson who
was entertaining his parents.
They decided to prepare dinner and
dessert for the Levines. Yakov
and Tiva made a fuss when the two
tried to bow out after serving
them. As a result, the four
ate together with conversation soon
turning to laughter-filled
remembrances of their time with
The Cafe in Dyeland had been overrun
by several of the angels who had
taken part in Superstar.
Having volunteered themselves for
babysitting duty, Andrew and
JenniAnn, along with Portia, brought
Lily, Liam, Shelby, Persephone, and
Belle there. They clapped and
cheered as the band played and the
four older children danced. In
the same instance that Henry took
Belle from Andrew's arms, Kelly and
Ronald pushed him and JenniAnn onto
the dance floor where they
demonstrated the Charleston as Tess
and her band played. When the
number was finished, Eli cut in and
started a square dance with
JenniAnn. Portia and
Persephone followed them in their
promenade with Andrew and Belle and
then Lily, Liam, and Shelby who were
succeeded by the angels who were not
bound to their instruments.
Only one angel hung back.
Adam smiled and laughed as he
watched the others but he kept part
of his focus trained on his cell
phone. Waiting... waiting to
see what would happen when two
secrets he'd kept to himself would
Clay and Kylie sat near the pier at
the Romano Family Farm. It was
there they'd had their first real
conversation together and both had
agreed it was the perfect spot to
spend their first Valentine's
together. There was a chill in
the air but a nearby fireplace kept
them comfortable and warm as they
gazed out at the starry sky and its
reflection on the pond. The
fire also supplied the necessary
flame for the s'mores they planned
to enjoy for dessert.
"Caleb mentioned that someone with
the high school approached you at
church this past Sunday and asked
you about coaching the basketball
team," Kylie ventured as she
unpacked the graham crackers,
marshmallows, and chocolate while
Clay rose to hunt up two
sticks. She'd been a little
surprised when Caleb had brought it
up and had wondered why Clay hadn't
Clay broke off a second bare branch
from a bush and returned to his
girlfriend's side. "Oh, uh,
yeah. I meant to tell you
"Did you accept his offer?"
"I told him I'd think about it."
"So... are you leaning towards yes
Clay shrugged. "I'm not
opposed. Truth is, it sounds
fun. Randall was thrilled by
the idea. I guess he used to
play for them. He said he'd
give me whatever time off that I'd
need. And Dot offered to host
a team dinner. Caleb asked if
he could be the mascot. Edward
just shook his head at him."
Kylie laughed. "Sometimes it's
hard to believe they're twins.
So different! But
complementary. Well, at least
Clay stroked her back as she sighed.
Kylie swiveled around to squeeze his
hand then resumed speaking.
"So what's holding you back?"
Clay stuck a marshmallow onto one of
the sticks and handed it to Kylie.
"You're welcome. Well, I
guess, first of all, it was the
usual thing." Clay waved his
hand over his face. "But then
I realized that the principal...
that's who approached me... wouldn't
have asked if he didn't think the
kids could handle it."
After slipping her melted
marshmallow between two graham
crackers and a chocolate bar, Kylie
hugged Clay's left arm as his right
held his marshmallow above the
"I'm sure not," she agreed.
Clay smiled and made his own
s'more. He sighed happily as
he bit into the deliciously sweet,
Kylie giggled. "Good, isn't
In companionable silence, the two
enjoyed their treats.
"I'm gonna have to have another,"
They each burnt a second marshmallow
then resumed their conversation.
"So if that was the 'first of all'
your reservations about taking the
coaching job, does that mean there
was something else?" Kylie
Clay grinned. "What?"
"It's just... you have chocolate all
around your lips."
Laughing, Clay swiped at his
"Worse, actually. Now it's all
over your cheek."
Kylie removed a napkin from their
picnic basket, poured some water
onto it, and dabbed at the man's
Clay held in his breath. So
many people had stared at him, many
with revulsion and fright. He
didn't want to consider how they
might react if they'd actually had
to touch his scarred face. Now
here was Kylie, acting as nonchalant
and comfortable as if it was her own
skin beneath her fingers.
"All better! So what were you
about to say?"
"Thanks. I... well, it's just
that if I started then I'd want to
stay on for as long as they'd have
me. In the four years I played
basketball in high school, we had
three different coaches. It's
hard to feel like a team when your
leaders keep switching."
"Sure. I never played sports
but I can see that."
"It's just... hard to say whether
I'll stay in Albany."
Alarmed, Kylie looked up at Clay and
grabbed his hands. "B-but
where would you go? A-and why
would you go away? Don't
Sorry for having accidentally
frightened Kylie, Clay pulled her to
him. "No, no, no.
Kylie... dearest Kylie... that's not
what... I only meant...
You really love it at school with
Diana and... and even with the
portal... People would maybe
get suspicious if... if... I mean
what if we messed up and I went to a
school function with you and then
came back here to coach and it was
in the papers and people realized I
couldn't have gotten between NYC and
Albany so quickly and... and so I
thought maybe you'd want to... to
stay at your school and live in the
city after we..."
Kylie gaped at Clay.
"What I mean is... is..." Clay
grimaced. "I... I wanted this
to be less disjointed a-and more
elegant for you but..." He
reached into his pocket and got down
on one knee in front of Kylie.
"Oh... oh, oh," Kylie murmured as
she began to stroke Clay's hair.
"Kylie May Carlisle, would you do me
the honor of... of being my wife?"
"Yes! Yes, yes, yes!" Kylie
Beaming, Clay slipped the ring onto
her shaking hand.
Kylie lunged at Clay with a force
that surprised them both.
Despite his considerable size, the
man fell backwards onto the grass
and laughed as his intended peered
down at him.
Kylie blushed. "Oops."
After bestowing a sweet smile on
Clay, Kylie rested her head against
Clay wrapped an arm around her and
stared up at the stars. He
brushed his free hand through her
"Thank God..." he whispered.
"Thank God you... you said yes and
thank God I got that out. I,
umm, got a little off my game in
case you couldn't tell."
Kylie stretched her neck up and
smiled at him. "A
little. But it was still
perfect. And, even if your
plan had fallen completely apart, I
think we woulda still ended up
Clay chuckled. "How so?"
With some reluctance, Kylie moved
away from him and reopened the
Curious, Clay sat up and watched as
she removed a tied and folded
handkerchief. He smiled as he
recognized it as the one Maryam had
given to her.
"I thought this seemed a good place
to keep it until... til tonight,"
Kylie explained as she undid the
"Aww, Kylie..." Clay choked out when
he saw what the handkerchief
Kylie knelt in front of him.
"Clay Carson Stanford, will you,
please, marry me?" she requested.
"A... a thousand times yes," he
accepted, stroking her face as she
slid a claddagh onto his finger.
Each moved in for a kiss.
"I love you, Clay," Kylie murmured.
"And I love you, Kylie," he echoed,
kissing her curls. Closing his
eyes, he thanked Joshua again for
cajoling his sorry self out of his
hospital room nearly a year before.
Clinging to her fiance, Kylie prayed
in thanksgiving for Joshua's counsel
and love which had allowed her to
leave an abusive marriage and enter
into one of mutual love, respect,
and faith. She smiled as she
drank in the scent of Clay's cologne
and the warmth of his embrace.
Clay pulled away just a bit and
cocked his head. "Pardon?"
"Albany. I want to live here,"
Kylie told him. "I'm sure I
could find something at one of the
schools and I want you to take that
coaching job, Clay. And... and
it's a better place to raise our
family, I think."
Cupping her face in his hands, Clay
nodded. "I... I agree."
Kylie closed her eyes as he kissed
her forehead. Then she tilted
his head downward so their lips
"Oh!" she burst out after a third
Alarmed, Clay's head shot up.
"What is it?"
"Adam! I told him I was going
to propose tonight. So... so I
should tell him that you accepted!"
Clay laughed loudly.
"Wait... I told Adam that I
was going to propose to you
Kylie began to laugh, too.
"When did you tell him?"
"Just yesterday, right before
rehearsal. I'd decided to a
while before that but I didn't want
him to have to keep it to himself
for too long. When did you
"Also yesterday... after rehearsal."
Clay shook his head and
grinned. "What did he say?"
"Congratulations and that he thought
it was wonderful and he was so, so
happy for us. To you?"
"The same basically. And he
didn't seem at all... anxious?
Like he was struggling not to tell
you about what I said?"
"He was excited but, no, cool as a
cucumber!" Kylie couldn't stop
"He's probably about to burst
now. You're right, we gotta
tell him. Here, hold your hand
Clay snapped a picture of both their
ringed hands hovering in the air.
Kylie rested her chin on his
shoulder as he attached the photo to
"What should we say?"
Kylie pondered the question.
"Hmm... How about 'Happily
engaged... twice over. Thanks
for keeping our secrets.'
Maybe we should let him forward it
along? Share the news?"
Clay smiled and nodded as he
typed. He knew Adam would
relish the responsibility.
"Oh and 'We love you, Adam.'"
"Got it. Now we ready to
send?" Clay checked.
Once the little window popped up
announcing that their message was
sent, Clay set the phone down and
embraced his bride-to-be.
In the few minutes before Caleb,
Edward, Dot, and Randall came
tearing out of the farmhouse to
congratulate them, the couple knelt
on the pier with their hands joined
and their foreheads resting against
each other. They prayed to
their Beloved Friend who had brought
them together and who they trusted
to always keep them together.
Andrew woke up shaking and at first
thought JenniAnn or one of the dogs
was hogging the blankets. But
no... He was completely
covered and the room was comfortably
warm. The angel rolled to his
side and, seeing JenniAnn,
remembered what he had dreamed and
why he was shaking.
Andrew let out a shuddering sigh and
rested his hand on JenniAnn's
arm. She smiled but did not
wake. As much as he wanted to
talk to her, he didn't feel right
waking her. They'd gone to bed
late, after celebrating Clay's and
Kylie's engagement and working on
the video. On top of that, it
would be a long, though happy, day:
breakfast with a number of their
friends then the party in the
ballroom with even more friends
followed by a visit to JenniAnn's
parents and grandma so they could
give Belle her Valentine's presents
and, hopefully, finding some time to
sneak away by themselves for a dance
His chills lingering, Andrew slipped
out of bed, grabbed his robe, and
made his way to Belle's
nursery. Like her mother, she
was sleeping soundly. Her
breathing was normal, no hint of the
week's earlier raspiness.
Andrew prayed over her then headed
to the library. After getting
a fire going, he pulled a chair
directly in front of it.
Staring into the flames, the angel
tried to piece together the
dream. It was more sounds...
the sobbing and the sirens... and
colors... red, everywhere... than
anything episodic. There had
been random images but they were
strange: childish beads, a cloaked
and hooded figure, rain. Lots
of rain. A small duck,
fighting to stay afloat on the
current. And the cross... her
cross with the six birthstones...
No, he wouldn't think about that
part. Shaking all of the
images off, Andrew closed his eyes
and began to pray.
"Is there anything to it,
Father? Was it just...
confusion, Joshua? So many
assignments... They're bound
to come up randomly, weaved into my
own life in nonsensical ways.
He heaved a sigh.
"Laja's here. And she's
happy... and safe. Our Belle,
too. Thank You for that.
That's what matters. Not
Andrew's eyes fluttered open.
It was a dream that brought JenniAnn
to Belle and him on that first
Closing his eyes again, the angel of
death resumed his prayers.
"If there's a message that I'm meant
to take from this nightmare, please
help me to know it. If there's
something I'm meant to do, please
lead me to it. As always, I
place my family, my friends, and
myself in Your hands."
"Andrew, love, what are you doing?"
JenniAnn approached. She
glanced at a chair and tried to
decide whether to move it closer to
Smiling for her, Andrew rose.
"I woke up and you looked so
peaceful. I was afraid I'd
wake you up if I stayed so..."
JenniAnn gently pushed him back into
the chair, frowned, and rested her
hand against his forehead.
"You look pale... a little clammy
even. I hope you're not
catching Belle's cold."
"I don't think so. I feel
fine." And he did...
"Well, in that case..."
Andrew chuckled when JenniAnn
perched on the left arm of his
"So you were going to avoid me if I
had the sniffles?" he teased.
"Avoid's a strong word. But
maybe I'd be slightly less
cuddly." JenniAnn grinned then
readjusted. "Although... I
forgot that these wooden arms aren't
Andrew looped his arm around her
waist and pulled.
Startled but pleased, JenniAnn
blushed as she spoke. "All
right then. Did not know this
was an option. Will most
definitely keep that in mind for
future seating reference."
Andrew clasped her hand.
"Laja... Happy Valentine's
Day." He rested his chin on
her hair when she nestled against
"Happy Valentine's Day to you, too,
but..." While not budging from
his lap, JenniAnn sat up, cupped the
angel's chin, and peered into his
wrong. Tell me?"
Andrew brought both her hands to his
lips then began. "I had a
"Did I bleach all your flannel
shirts? That would be a
Andrew gave her a wan smile and
buried his right hand in her hair.
"I don't even know what happened in
it. Just... flashes of
things... sirens, crying,
rain... And the way I felt...
so... so halved. You..."
Tears welled in the angel of death's
JenniAnn let out a shaky breath and
bowed her head. It was
slightly alarming... but only
slightly. It wouldn't be the
first time Andrew's AOD work had
made him fret over her and that was
likely all it was and even if
not... She thumbed some tears
away from his face.
"Love, I've felt that, too.
Halved. In waking life, I
mean. When you were in the
hospital after you'd been living on
the streets, when you were in
Afghanistan with Max. But...
but it was fleeting. You came
back to us, to me. Even if,
let's say, something did happen to
me... I might very well recover as
you did. Or... or if not here
then... then I would still be with
you. Joshua promised."
Andrew smiled and nodded. "He
"And, if it makes you feel any
better, Joshua promised me something
else. He said he'd be back for
a holiday here and there and that
he'd show up and join me as I had a
cup of tea and that he'd appear in
the Tunnels. He told me that
I'd have to wait for those
times. Showing up for
Christmas doesn't fulfill 'a holiday
here and there' as far as I'm
concerned. It's just one
holiday... a wonderful one but still
just one. And he hasn't
surprised me as I sipped tea or
unexpectedly come Below. So
either we're going to have a bunch
of rapid fire visits from Joshua...
which doesn't really fit with the
waiting thing... or I'm going to be
here for quite a while. Which
is for the best because I don't
think our friends would tolerate you
getting another anam cara.
They're quite loyal to me."
JenniAnn's coquettish grin dispelled
the last of Andrew's
uneasiness. He laughed as he
embraced her tightly.
"You should have been a lawyer,
Laja. Although theologian does
suit you better." Andrew
exhaled deeply and kissed her
temple. "I feel better.
JenniAnn laughed as she got to her
feet. "We're being paged."
"Persistently," Andrew added as he
took her hand and headed across the
They found Belle standing up in her
crib, her face pressed against the
bars and her lips pursed.
Her parents laughed at her grouchy
"Almost Tess-like!" Andrew joked.
Belle giggled as if she understood
the joke then hugged Andrew's neck
when he picked her up.
As he snuggled her, Andrew held his
free arm aloft then wrapped it
around JenniAnn when she approached.
"Now how do you feel?" JenniAnn
"Blessed," the angel replied.
The St. Genesius crowd was not
disappointed by the Valentine's
fanfare in Dyeland. The mild
weather allowed for the windows to
be opened, bringing in the fresh air
and sunlight. Bouquets of
daffodils, hellebores, and snowdrops
further enlivened the Willowveil
ballroom. Various sweets and
treats covered two tables and, in
combination with a variety of teas,
juices, wines, and coffees, served
to enliven the party-goers.
After an hour had passed, Andrew and
JenniAnn showed their video.
The crowd laughed at goofy
behind-the-scenes photos of Jesus
Christ Superstar and "awwed"
over clips of the babies and
children being adorable.
Couples clasped hands as their
engagement and anniversary photos
flicked across the screen.
There were sighs and teary eyes
whenever Joshua, Maryam, Yosef, or
The crowd began to applaud and cheer
when Carole King's "You've Got a
Friend" came down to its last few
notes as a photograph of the whole
crowd on Christmas faded away.
When the screen dimmed to black,
Andrew stood up to turn off the
projector. Then, suddenly, the
screen came alive again.
"Ah-ah!" Belle shrieked as the
others all stared in awe.
Andrew stumbled back into his chair
as Joshua beamed while sitting on a
bench in his carpentry shop.
"Happy Valentine's Day, beloved
ones!" he greeted. "I couldn't
resist adding a little to Andrew's
and JenniAnn's video. It was
wonderful to relive all those
moments with you. And to think
of all the moments to come!
And there will be so many happy,
love-filled moments: babies to be
born... and not just human babies,
Violeta laughed and nodded as she
swiped at a tear.
Joshua grinned. "Weddings,
anniversaries, new friendships
formed. There will be trials,
too. You know that. But
don't ever forget that I'm with you
every step of the way, sometimes
dancing alongside you, sometimes
holding you when you can't take
another step. Whatever it is,
whenever it is: I'm there, loving
The room filled with murmured "I
love yous" sent back to Joshua.
Joshua clasped his hands over his
heart and his eyes sparkled as he
"Thank you. Now... I think
this is a time for dancing.
Remember, even though you can't see
me, I'm right there with you.
I love you all so much!"
In the same instant that the screen
flickered off, the sound system
boomed and began to play a
"Of all the boys
I've known, and I've known some,
until I first met
you I was lonesome.
And when you came
in sight, dear, my heart grew
And this old world
seemed new to me."
Laughing at the surprising song
pick, several of the adults rose
from their chairs and began to
dance. After watching for a
few moments, the children joined
in. Knowing the song was
important to Andrew and JenniAnn,
Owen hurried to them and lifted a
gleefully shrieking Belle from her
mother's lap. Andrew clasped
JenniAnn's hand as they watched the
"Shall we?" Andrew offered after the
Squeezing his hand, JenniAnn nodded
and followed him to the dance
floor. Soon they were laughing
as they danced, their friends all
stopping to circle around and watch
"Bei mir bistu
shein, please let me explain,
Bei mir bistu shein
means that you're grand.
Bei mir bistu
shein, again I'll explain,
It means you're the
fairest in the land.
I could say 'bella,
bella!', even say 'wunderbar!'
Each language only
helps me tell you
how grand you are.
I've tried to
explain 'Bei mir bistu shein'.
So kiss me and say
Only one person in the room saw not
one but two men swinging and
twirling their ladies around the
Sitting at an abandoned table,
Joshua smiled at his Andrew and his
JenniAnn and at his David and his
When the song ended, the latter
couple, laughing and linking their
arms around each other, returned to
"Wunderbar!" David praised, grinning
as he looked over his shoulder at
Andrew and JenniAnn who were
blushing as their loved ones
Chava sighed happily as she took in
her friends. "They're
beautiful," she added. Her
smile grew when Owen handed Belle to
Andrew. "And that precious
girl of theirs! Darling
Joshua squeezed her hand.
"JenniAnn still wishes that you two
could have met."
For a moment, Chava's face clouded
but then she looked into Joshua's
eyes and calmed.
"I... I will tell JenniAnn that I
have seen her Belle and adore
everything about her," Chava
promised. "And that I am so
pleased with how close she and
Andrew have become. And
yet..." Though Joshua had
warned her before they'd made their
brief return to the mortal realms,
Chava was surprised by how foreign
worry felt. It didn't exist in
Paradise. She peered at
David. She knew what it was to
have her soul mate torn away from
her by violence.
David bowed his head and took his
beloved's free hand. "Andrew
is strong, Essie. Their love
for each other is strong.
It... it's borne of him." He
smiled at Joshua. "And they
have so many, many friends to help
them through! On this side...
and our side."
Smiling, Chava nodded. "So
many..." she echoed, her gaze
drifting over the angels and humans
"JenniAnn will be so pleased to see
her beloved Chava again, Esther, and
to meet you, David," Joshua
cheered. He looked tenderly at
the woman as she and Belle snuggled
against Andrew's shoulders.
"And to see you again, Joshua... you
most of all," David murmured.
With tears in his eyes, Joshua
continued to stare at Andrew, Belle,
and JenniAnn. Then he began to
"'Two are better than one because
they have a good return for their
labor. For if either of them
falls, the one will lift up his
companion. But woe to the one
who falls when there is not another
to lift him up. Furthermore,
if two lie down together they keep
warm, but how can one be warm
alone? And if one can
overpower him who is alone, two can
resist him. A cord of three
strands is not quickly torn apart.'"
Chava let out the breath she'd been
holding and nodded.
"And many other strands will join
those three," David vowed.
Joshua smiled proudly and
nodded. "They will."
Oblivious to the three visitors and
yet feeling suddenly heartened,
Andrew rested his chin on JenniAnn's
hair and stroked Belle's back as he
peered at the ceiling.
"Thank You. I trust You.
I love You," he prayed.
Willing his love to the angel of
death and all his merry, love-filled
band, Joshua beamed.
Jesus Christ Superstar
"Moon River" by Harry Mancini
The Closer You Get
"Tender Shepherd" by
Moose Charlap and Carolyn Leigh from
The Lord's Prayer/Our
Psalm 118:22-24- "the Lord has done
"You've Got a Friend" by Carole King
Ecclesiastes 3:4- "a time to dance"
"Bei Mir Bistu Shein" by Jacob
Jacobs and Sholom Secunda (Yiddish)
and Sammy Cahn and Saul Chaplin
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12- "the cord of
(Photo Credits: The photographs used on this
page are from Touched by an Angel and owned by CBS
Productions, Caroline Productions, and Moon Water Productions.
They are not being used to seek profit.)